Bronco Special Operations Air Group 15 “Colts”

Bronco Special Operations Air Group 15 “Colts”

Credit to their authors…

Video made by the Mediamatix company during the last years of the 90’s and early 2000’s for the Venezuelan Air Force.

NortAmerican OV-10A / E Bronco Special Operations Air Group 15 “Colts”

Enjoy this historical video:

Pillars of the Plane: An Overview of The OV-10 Build

Pillars of the Plane: An Overview of The OV-10 Build

Of all the planes that flew our skies, the OV-10 Bronco might be one of the most iconic warbirds out there. In the previous blog posts, the OV-10 was discussed as a warplane that came out of necessity by the three branches of the military, namely the army, the navy, and the air force, as well as the efforts of 16 companies that competed to get their design accepted by the military. It was depicted as a figure in the skies that swept down on Victor Charlies in the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War, providing air support for the friendlies and offensive strikes to anyone who took up arms for the communist ideology. These blogs have mentioned the warplane in all its glory, and rightfully so. The OV-10 is indeed one that will definitely go down in history. But with all these insights of the plane’s contributions in various theaters of war, one thing remains in the minds of enthusiasts and amateurs alike – the restoration of these metallic birds of prey. Exactly why, even after years of service, is the OV-Bronco being restored? What’s with the OV-10 that pushes people to say “we need to build it to complete working order”?

This blog post focuses on the 3 main build components that make up the OV-10 Bronco, mainly the frame, the engine, and the cockpit. Now, we’re not saying these three are considered the only important components, but it’s these features that define the Bronco for what it is— a warplane different from the rest. These features make the OV-10 Bronco a plane that stands at the helm of history as one of the best warplanes in terms of endurance and maneuverability.

First up is the frame. When we talk about aviation, the design of the plane itself can have a tremendous impact on how the plane performs. The dimensions, the contours, the wingspan, the design of the tail, all of which contribute to how well a plane handles itself during flight.

The design of the OV-10 Bronco did not allow for maximum aerodynamicity. However, the double-boom design and the high-lift wing design optimized maneuverability. The double-booms are connected by a tail-plane, which at first glance looks strange to the untrained observer. However, this tail-plane keeps the plane stable during missions where maneuverability and delicate control was needed over speed. The wings also maximized lift and low-speed handling. While some old-fashioned pilots complained of speeds below 350 knots, these planes were relatively slow yet agile enough to escort helicopters and other planes at that time. The combination of these factors: the double booms, the tailplane, and the high-lift wings, give the OV-10 its unique maneuverability and agility.

Here at OV-10 Squadron, our team focuses on restoring the overall design. As with all restorations, the outer portion should remain true to the original. We painstakingly fabricate any missing frame pieces during the build. If there are holes on the frame, we repair it using the same material used on the rest of the frame and treat it so it blends well with the rest. A doubler is placed beneath the patch, and a cover piece, usually the next size thicker, is placed on top of the patch as well. These pieces are then riveted together to ensure that the repair is as sturdy as possible. We see to it that the restoration of the frame is accurate in order for the plane to be as authentic as possible.

The engine of the plane is one of the components that make the Bronco stand out from the competition. The Bronco was generally lauded for its incredible endurance back during the days of the Vietnam War. Captain James Richmond of the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron in Nakhon Phanom RTAFB (Royal Thai Air Force Base), Thailand, commented that the Bronco could handle five and three-quarters of flying, even though most missions required only five and a half hours of flight. As it landed after each mission, service crews would note that it still had fuel left for more. Later models of the OV-10 would boast a Cockpit Management System, which fed pilot and observer with information on navigation, countermeasures, and weapon systems through a Cathode Ray Tube or CRT display and an alphanumeric keyboard. In fact, its visibility and heavy ordnance capacity made older OV-10A models firefighting lead planes for the California Department of Forestry.

Aside from its endurance, the OV-10 was lauded for its ability to land and take off in as little time as possible. This was partially due to the fact that the OV-10 was made for recon and light attack in a heavily waterlogged, forested area. The longer a plane stayed on the ground, the more it would struggle with the difficult terrain. The OV-10 Bronco only required 10 seconds for its plane and landing gear to deploy, and only required minimal taxiing before it took off. The landing gear not only allowed for 20 feet of sinking but also carried enough power to take off even in the muddiest of conditions. Our team wishes to bring that kind of performance back with our restorations of various OV-10 Broncos.

The Honeywell TPE331 engine, originally designed by Garrett AiResearch, is the power plant that gives the OV-10 its distinct performance. We at OV-10 Squadron aim to have these monsters working. It’s not like any car where one could simply mount a compatible engine for it to work. If we did that on our OV-10s, we are not only compromising the originality of the plane but are also taking away the OV-10s characteristics. That is why we maintain the integrity of the engines and send it to the folks at CTEC. Copperstate Turbine Engine Company is comprised of dedicated employees who have worked with Garrett AiResearch at one point in time. When it comes to dealing with these engines, they know what they’re doing.

The cockpit is also one of the OV-10 Bronco’s most striking qualities. The general shape of the Bronco includes a large, bulbous canopy and a short nose to maximize visibility. In reconnaissance missions, visibility is a must, and the greenhouse canopy of the OV-10 allowed for as much of that during the 70s. The twin-boom design also avoided the problem of the back of the plane blocking the rear view. This plane was one of the first to allow for 360-degree visibility, especially in front and below. This was useful in reconnaissance missions done with the naked eye, of which there were many. These missions had planes fly as low as 1500 feet. However, some recon flights required heights above 6,500 feet, necessitating the use of binoculars. This glass “greenhouse” got warm rather easily, so the side panels were swung open to allow cool air to circulate, usually while the plane was taxiing or awaiting command.

Behind the cockpit is a spacious compartment, large enough to carry armaments or people. Paratroopers can be escorted for drop missions. As a medical support aircraft, these agile flight units can carry up to four walking wounded and bring them to safety. Our team aims to replicate this spacious compartment along with the rest of the unique nuts and bolts of the OV-10 Bronco, staying true to history and the proud tradition of the US Air Force.

All of these unique qualities associated with the three components of the OV-10 Bronco make it worthy to bring this powerful plane back into place, piece by piece. We aim to replicate the maneuverability of this plane by utilizing the very same parts that sent it airborne. Knowing the components, and more importantly, what makes a plane unique, is vital in reconstructing such a complex yet awesome machine.

We have a team of committed people who want to bring this bird back to its former glory. We at OV-10 Squadron aim not only to accurately replicate the look of this warbird of old but also make it operational. Think of it this way, a Harley Davidson motorcycle is known for its distinctive sound. Take that away and it’s just another vehicle. The same concept goes with the OV-10 Bronco, modify any of the three components and the plane simply loses its unique characteristics. That is why we see to it that these components are true to the original design, to keep the Bronco on a league of its own.

If you want to be part of the restoration process of the OV-10 Bronco, come and visit our headquarters at the Leading Edge Avionics Hangar at John Wayne/Orange County Airport, 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA 92707. The restoration hangar is located at Chino Airport, California. You can also leave us a message on our website and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

A Bird on Foreign Soil

A Bird on Foreign Soil

The mighty OV-10 Bronco has seen its fair share of conflicts, from the jungles of Vietnam to the Deserts of the Middle East; the United States military used these warbirds to fight the good fight. These planes were capable of reconnaissance missions to light air and ground support. They were even, at one point, provided as a transport plane for paratroopers. They were so versatile and reliable that the OV-10 Bronco has practically become one of the all-time greatest observation and light attack planes to have ever been made. Their success was so well-known that it sparked the interest of other countries who also wanted to have a warbird watching over their own military from above, providing the same reliability and versatility as it did for the US military.

During the years following the Vietnam War, Thailand was significantly one of the countries who first requested to have OV-10s in their air force arsenal. Contrary to popular belief, the Royal Thai Air Force was only able to order 32 OV-10s instead of 38 (as written by most accounts). Sources indicate that they initially ordered 32 and opted to order another 6 but were subsequently cancelled. The planes they ordered weren’t from the United States Marine Corps as some would think; rather, they actually had original models made by the North American Rockwell in Columbus, OH officially called the OV-10C. The purpose for buying the planes was initially for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations but was practically used for various purposes such as air defense. The OV-10s of the Royal Thai Air Force is basically the same as the OV-10A of the United States Air Force but was installed with a 50 caliber gun instead of the standard 7.62mm machine guns on the sponsons. Thailand had 10-15 OV-10Cs in operation before being retired by the more modern F-16 aircraft. The OV-10s of Thailand were eventually donated to the Philippines Air Force.

The Fuerza Aérea Venezolana or FAV of Venezuela was the next significant country to buy OV-10 Broncos. 16 models of the Bronco known as the OV-10E was developed and supplied to the Venezuelan Air Force. The most interesting story rooted from that of the 1992 coup d’état wherein rebel troops lead by Commander Hugo Chavez tried to overthrow the governments. This coupe was an attempt at developing a new order within Venezuela as a solution to reforms made by President Carlos Andres Perez. These reforms were aimed to stabilize the economy by opening the country to foreign competitors. This resulted in a lot of Venezuelans losing their jobs. On November 27th, 1992, a rogue OV-10 Bronco piloted by Lt. Domador was shot down by Lt. Beltran Vielma who was piloting an F-16. The video of that dogfight can still be viewed across the Web. Some argue that the encounter was considered to be a handicap as the F-16 was more technologically advanced than the OV-10.

The Moroccan Air Force was able to acquire 6 former United States Marine Corps OV-10As in 1981. Two were delivered in February and another two followed by March, then in April. Fifteen marines of both the VMO-1 and VMO-2 (Virginia Marine Observation) squadron were deployed at Kenitra airbase for six months to train the Moroccan Air Force on how to fly and maintain the plane. The initial amount of planes was supposed to be 24 units, but due to political unrest and the United Nations intervention regarding the war in the Sahara, it was reduced to 6. These planes were intended for the west Sahara war wherein after Spain agreed to decolonize the phosphorus-rich land, Polisario Morocco decided to annex the area and this eventually led to a low-intensity war between Polisario guerillas and Morocco. One of the initial six OV-10As was shot down by Polisario guerillas using a SAM-7 or surface-to-air missile on January 21st, 1985 while conducting COIN operations near the Algerian border. Another plane did a wheels-up landing and was scrapped because repairs were considered to be too much at the time. The remaining Moroccan OV-10 Broncos were used for border and coast patrol by the end of the war. They were then put in storage after their last flight to Meknes airbase in June of 1991. Because of their lack of service up until 1991, they are said to be in relatively good condition. One of the most notable appearances of the Moroccan OV-10 was that of the James Bond film “The Living Daylights”. The escape plane was painted black and a Soviet red star was painted on its tail.

One of the most well-known countries to still use the OV-10 Bronco for military operations is the Philippines. The Philippine Air Force acquired the warbirds in 1992. Throughout the years that followed, around 24-27 planes were delivered. The Philippine government tried to make a deal with Thailand back in 2003 regarding the donation of 15 OV-10 Broncos although it was later reduced to 5 aircraft. The PAF recognized how critical the OV-10 Bronco is with regards to maintaining the peace and stability in the country and with that, has opened the bidding for the overhauling of the said planes. Marsh Aviation won the bidding in 2004 and took on the challenge of improving the integrity of the Philippine OV-10As. In 2008, The Philippine government once again was able to make a deal with Thailand to transfer additional parts for the Bronco.

Among all other countries featured in this blog, Germany has the most radical OV-10 manufacturing request.  The OV-10B was manufactured for West Germany as a target tug aircraft. The rear door present in the OV-10A was replaced with a glass greenhouse dome for a tow operator to see the towed target. The OV-10B did not have any weapons and sponsons as it wasn’t meant for military purposes. Another version of the OV-10B was made using two GE J-85-GE-4 turbojet engines mounted on the wings on struts above the centerline of the aircraft. The OV-10B[Z] did not see much service due to development problems. The OV-10B saw service from 1970 to the early 1990s.

The United States has given the Colombian Air Force (FAC) 12 OV-10s in 1991 and another 3 Marine Corps OV-10s in the succeeding years. The FAC was later permitted to cannibalize the 3 OV-10s because of difficulty to support the configuration of the planes. In 2000, the remaining OV-10 Broncos were modified to be able to drop pesticide, a feature that aided in the eradication of guerilla farming of poppy plants in the region and weed out illegal drugs from their source. Though they proved to be successful, they have since stopped their crop dusting operations due to concerned citizens complaining about the adverse effects of such pesticides in the air.

The OV-10 Bronco’s name precedes it and has proven its worth in various theaters in all parts of the globe. From South America to South East Asia, the Bronco has shown to be of great use during its time of service and is still contributing to peace and stability in some countries up until today. If you want to know more about the OV-10 Bronco and maybe even want to pitch in with the restoration of these planes, you can drop by the OV-10 Squadron Headquarters at 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA 92707. Our restoration hangar is located at Chino Airport, California. You can also leave a message on our website on our contacts page.

From The OV-10, With Love: The Bronco’s Firepower

From The OV-10, With Love: The Bronco’s Firepower

The OV-10 Bronco, the bird that flew over the Vietnamese canopy, the one that provided the boys back at the base camp the much-needed information to fight back against the communist threat, the plane that put fear in the hearts of the enemy. From the North Vietnamese army to those who took up arms for ISIS, OV-10 has proven to be one of the most versatile and reliable pieces of machinery militaries from across the globe has ever seen.

The Bronco has its beginning as a recon plane for the United States Marines. The United States military saw the need for a plane that can provide suppressive firepower as well as join recon missions for the war effort in Vietnam. It did not take long before the Bronco began swooping down on enemy battalions and raining fire on anyone identified to be hostile to friendly units in the air and on the ground. Versions of the OV-10 were developed in order to ensure that it could handle itself during various COIN (counterinsurgency) missions as well as provide suppressive firepower to ground forces if needed.

Being a low flying, support aircraft, the Bronco was fitted with four 7.62x51mm M60 machine guns. The M60 machine was conceived as a predecessor to a whole line of heavy weapons. The M60, or the T161E3 gun as it was initially named, proved to be quite useful when American forces began to be deployed in Vietnam. The gun was capable of ripping down trees with its 7.62mm NATO caliber rounds. Due to being lightweight and accurate, other branches of the military gained interest in these lethal weapons. It was not long before planes, such as the Bronco, were fitted with these guns. Unlike the foot soldier that can only carry 100 to 200 rounds of ammunition, they were rigged to carry a staggering 500 rounds of ammunition per mount. This permitted the Bronco to remain in the fight and on station longer. For harder hits, an optional 20mm cannon was installed.

That’s only part of the loadout. The Bronco was also able to carry up to 3600 pounds of mixed ordnance. One could mount an ordnance directly on the centerline (under-fuselage), 4 on the sponson, and another two on each of the underwing mounts of the plane. The folding-fin five inch aerial rocket, commonly known as the Zuni rocket, is one of the many armaments the Bronco was fitted with. The Zuni rocket was first introduced in 1958 by Bridgeport Brass Company. It was, as with other missiles, named after the Zuni Tribe, a North American Indian tribe. The fins of the rocket automatically unfold as it leaves the launcher, making it more stable as it travelled to its target. Given its accuracy, the air-to-surface missile was perfect against enemy ground troops, pillboxes, vehicle convoys, and small ships. The rocket was incredibly cheap, costing only 400 dollars per rocket making it easy to manufacture.

The under-fuselage and sponson stations were also hosts to other types of armaments such as the MK-81 or general purpose bomb, a type of bomb that is not computer-guided but rather was simply dropped in the field. Though these bombs were inaccurate, they left a trail of devastation in their wake, being able to level a building even without hitting it directly. The YOV-10D did not sport such capabilities as it was installed with a 20mm M-97 cannon beneath the fuselage itself.

One of the most famous munitions that the OV-10 Bronco and other planes brandished was the LAU-7 missile package. These launchers of 7 or 19 rocket pods contained mk-4 mighty mouse missiles. These 2.75-inch folding-fin aircraft rockets were outfitted with a 2.7 kg warhead. These missiles were the bread and butter of the military as they were considered cheap and were easy to use. They were connected to the trigger mechanism in the plane via an umbilical cable that sends an electronic signal to each missile prompting it to fire and shoot out of the launcher. They travelled in the direction parallel to the plane making it easier for the pilot to determine where the missiles would hit. They were a favorite of various military forces as they cleared reinforcements, units, and convoys relatively easily; a perfect alternative for those who want to save their Zunis for bigger targets. As used in the Bronco, they often were used on ripple fire, where several are launched at once.

For those of you who are curious, the Bronco, with all its munitions capabilities and raw firepower, is not capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. The reason for this is that the plane is meant to fly at a low altitude. If it were able to carry a nuclear warhead and successfully drop it onto the battlefield, it would instantly get annihilated due to the blast. Another factor to consider is the limitations of its two Garret-brand T76-G-410/412 turboprops. Even if it were able to fly at a relatively safe altitude for dropping a nuclear warhead, the blast would instantly destroy the plane as it is not capable of flying away in time to clear the blast radius. Even so, the Bronco is still capable of carrying fuel air explosives such as the CBU-55. The CBU’s left miniature mushroom clouds in their wake, and the overpressure wave was useful for clearing dense jungle and collapsing enemy caves and tunnels. These were very useful in making a helicopter landing zone where there was none before. Three were normally loaded out on the Bronco so the fins had clearance when released from the aircraft. The CBU was used mostly towards the end of the Bronco’s run in the Vietnam conflict.

Into Desert Storm, in 1991, the United States Marine Corps had air to air Sidewinder Missiles installed on the wing station. A surprise to any errant Iraqi helicopter or fighting chance against a lone MIG.

In the vast contested deserts home to ISIS, the Bronco has demonstrated the APKWS, or Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System. A “Smart Zuni”. The venerable 5” Zuni rocket now has guidance and can hit a bad guy while standing in a doorway.

These are just some of the weapons and munitions that the OV-10 Bronco is capable of carrying. If you are interested to know more about the Bronco and its impressive payload, or even want to pitch in the restoration process of these majestic metal planes, you can visit the OV-10 Squadron headquarters in Leading Edge Avionics Hangar at John Wayne/Orange County Airport at 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA 92707 or contact us by leaving a message in our website. Our restoration hangar is located at Chino Airport California. Get to know more about these legendary warplanes up close and in person, contact OV-10 Squadron today!

The Squad of the OV-10 Squadron

The Squad of the OV-10 Squadron

You might or might not have heard of the saying “Behind every great build is a great team”. In this case, it takes a squadron. The guys at OV-10 Squadron have been restoring the legendary OV-10 Bronco back to its former glory. For years, the team has put in the time and effort into restoring these epic warbirds. The team aims to have these iconic fleet of aircraft returned to their natural luster, much like how it rolled out of the assembly line back in ‘69. They see to it that the planes could once again soar and maneuver across the skies like a 9900-pound, reinforced, metal butterfly, capable of delivering its sting like a true light-armed, rocket-launching, payload-dropping, bullet-resistant bee even without any offensive measures ready.

The build team at OV-10 Squadron is composed of a handful of people, all of whom have their own specialties. John is one of our members here at the site. He used to work with the OV-10 Broncos in the Marines back during Operation Desert Storm. His deep knowledge about the warbirds makes him one of our assets for the project build. He works with the team and sees to it that every work done on the OV-10s is accurate.

Freddie, on the other hand, mostly handles metal work and riveting. With Jose, they work on the body of the aircraft, doing patchwork where necessary and fabricating components needed for the body. Paul works with Phil prepping the plane’s body; they also work on disassembling the plane for further procedures.

Paul has a mechanical background and works with the local aerospace museum when he’s not at the site. His mechanical skills are broad, ranging from aircraft restorations to military vehicles as well. He heads the motor pool down at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California and enjoys working with tanks, ambulances and bikes as much as he enjoys working on the OV-10.

If there’s anything to know about the progress of the build, Brian’s your go-to guy. Brian works alongside the team and contributes with the mechanics and hydraulic components of the plane. He owes his mechanical skills from a Korean War veteran. Having restored a P-51 Mustang back in the day, he’s now currently providing his skills with the restoration of the OV-10 Bronco.

Matt is in charge of delegating the tasks required. He also screens the people who want to pitch in with the effort. As stated before, some drop by without prior experience to restoring planes. As long as they merge well with the rest of the team and don’t mind getting their hands dirty, they’re more than welcome to join the cause. It generally doesn’t matter how skilled a would-be member is, as long as they have the drive and passion for these planes.

The team has come a long way since being a five-man team. We’re seeing more and more people showing interest in the restoration of OV-10. And even though each team member has their own specializations, the restoration provides them with the opportunity to develop other skills. A team member might work on painting though he usually works on fabrication. If there’s anything they need doing, each member voluntarily pitches in.

The restoration itself is not a walk in the park. Every component has to be accurate and sturdily built to meet the requirements the team has set out – to have a fully restored plane that can also perform as well as it looks. Planes aren’t like cars where one could pull it on the side of the road if it breaks down. The restoration team cannot afford a breakdown during flight or they risk the safety of the pilot as well as wasting all their efforts in the project. That is why it is imperative that the team makes the plane work flawlessly. With this goal set for the OV-10 squadron, the team takes their time to make the OV-10 sky-worthy, and as Brian would state it: “it has to be done right, not right now.”

The restoration of the OV-10 Bronco is currently in progress, if you want to know more about the plane and the project, you can leave a message through our Contact page and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also drop by our headquarters located in the Leading Edge Avionics Hangar at John Wayne/Orange County Airport. The restoration hangar is located at Chino Airport, California. So if you have the skills and the passion for aircraft and would want to be a member of the OV-10 squadron crew, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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